I love hearing from my readers and my friends when they have questions about science. I love to share my knowledge, and if I don’t have an answer to your science question, you can be darn sure that I will do some research and find an answer. This week I heard from a friend that his 5yo son, Augi, had asked how lasers worked and he didn’t have an answer. Unfortunately, when he asked me, I had no answer either. I’ve never worked with lasers other than to shine a laser pointer at a presentation. (like the one below)
So, I looked it up. I did a little research and looked at the details of this cool invention. And this is what I found.
First of all, “laser” is a made-up word. (Though I guess all words are made up) I mean that it’s made up in the idea that it doesn’t derive from anything else, “laser” is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” And honestly, that’s exactly what it is. Every laser has some sort of source of electricity. This electricity is used to “excite” electrons in the atoms. When electrons come down from this excited phase, they emit a photon, a particle of light.
In order to continue to excite the electrons, electricity is sent through an “active laser medium”. This medium then is used as a pump to increase the power of the light. In order for lasers to work, the power of the beam of light must be amplified quite a bit.
Then the final touch. The difference between a laser and a simple flashlight is that the laser is a lot more organized. Think Marie Kondo versus a toddler’s toy box. When a flashlight emits light, the photons go in all different directions. In a laser, the light is all the same wavelength, moves with the other photons, and it is oriented toward a single direction. One trick to make all of this occur is mirrors. When photons are emitted, they bounce back and forth off of the mirrors inside the laser. When the photons run into other atoms, it excites them. Then there are more photons bouncing around off the mirrors and even more atoms can become excited. This is like a snowball effect making the beam of light that leaves the laser very strong. The light is able to leave the device so that we can see it because one of the mirrors has a tiny slit in it. This way it will reflect most of the light back in, but a tiny amount is released so that we can see it.
So a laser has to have a power source, then it passes through a specific substance which amplifies its power and then it can be focused into a single, unified, and powerful beam.
Fortunately, for the last few months I have been attending a Bible study on the book of Romans. It has been an enlightening journey into one of Paul’s many writings, but one verse really fits with my understanding of lasers.
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
Each of us has a rational mind that enables us to make decisions between right and wrong. But, at least with my mind, it just spits tons of ideas all over the place and in every direction. Honestly, it’s exhausting. And this can also be very confusing. There are so many times that my rational mind can see both sides of an argument and see that both sides have valid points, so who is correct? Which do I follow? What do I do?
Luckily, if I am transformed by the renewal of my mind, if I learn to be like Jesus, then I can focus my thoughts. I can clear out all of the other junk that rattles around up in my brain. In the 90’s it was cool to say “W.W.J.D.?”, but the sentiment still stands. When we filter all of our lives, all of our thoughts through the lens of Christ, then we can become the most focused and powerful version of ourselves.
So many people have become jaded to this world. I know I often feel this way. Many have lost all hope and are blindly wandering through life. I hear all the time that people don’t know what their purpose is, they don’t know what they should do. Like the flashlight, you may still be able to shine light into the darkness. You may still be able to do good for this world, but think of how much more powerful your efforts could be, how many times amplified, if you were to let Jesus in. Let Him be your medium.
When we let Jesus be the focus of our energy, we can do amazing things. We can change the world. Spend some time in prayer this week thinking of where your efforts need to be amplified. How can you include God in those tasks? Invite Him in. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you and strengthen you. Pray that you may find a focused path forward towards heaven.